'80s - Sinitta (2010)
'It Still Feels Like The First Time!’
Sinitta is an American-born actress and singer who has lived in the United Kingdom for most of her career. She is best known for her hit records in the 1980s; including 'So Macho,' 'Toy Boy,' 'Cross My Broken Heart' and a 1989 cover of 'Right Back Where We Started From' - and her close relationship with Simon Cowell!
She is the daughter of Canadian actress and Disco/Soul singer Miquel Brown and Anthony Blackett, and is also the niece of disco singer Amii Stewart.
Havng just released a brand new Hits Collection CD/DVD, I recently had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Sinitta - and asked her all about her career, her 7" single cover shoots, her relationship with Simon Cowell, and, of course, ... penguins!
Taking it from the top, and the fact that you are the daughter of disco/soul singer Miguel Brown, and also the niece of disco singer Amii Stewart, things growing up must have been very musical! In reflection, is there one moment that stands out where you suddenly became aware that a music career was to be your chosen job profession? "Yes, singing with Amii and Mom on a show called POP GOSPEL when I was really young on TV."
Indeed, and I don't think many people/fans know this, but you were born as one of twin daughters, with your twin being adopted and raised by an aunt. Today, are you close with your twin sister and do you even look alike now ie: twins, as the years have gone by? "We are not especially close. There is a family resemblance, but we are not mistakable for each other."
Indeed, your first TV programme appearance was on The Tube, aged 14 as a dancer for Imagination! As I've just interviewed Errol Kennedy from that band, it truly does now seem to be a small world! Can you remember back to that performance of yours that day, and did it lead to other such dancing moments with other big bands at the time? "How weird! I don’t even remember it! Was it really me? I did dance and do bvs on their European and UK tour - when I had been kicked out of school and needed a summer job!"
You began recording aged just 15 in 1983, releasing your first single, 'Break Me Into Little Pieces' with dance troupe, Hot Gossip. You continued releasing singles throughout 1984 and 1985, even participating in 1984's A Song For Europe with the song 'Imagination'. But, none of these singles were successes, all failing to chart. Looking back, what was the missing component to you becoming a success - and did it ever cross your mind to find a new day job, perhaps? "It never occurred to me that here was a missing component! I was just enjoying singing and recording and hadn't even thought about breaking into the charts! Sounds crazy, but its true! So many singers never make it big time and are just happy to be working! Plus I was just a kid. So as far as I was concerned just being asked was a form of success!"
Your website bio has you saying that you did 'ghost vocals' for Yazz in the mid-80s, just before your own career took off. What exactly do you mean by 'ghost vocals' re: Yazz? And is it true you actually discovered her - and how? "By Ghost Vocals, I mean that I sang all the female vocals and harmonies on the tracks for a group called THE BIZ. But I was too young to be in the group so I went to The Pineapple Studios and chose three gorgeous models to front the act and mime to my voice!"
Everything changed for you in 1986, because you had a chance meeting with a junior music publisher turned A&R man, Pop Idol / American Idol's very own Simon Cowell! Just how much of a 'chance meeting' was this and knowing that you were the very first signing to his self-created Fanfare Records label, how giddy were you at the time that someone was about to take a musical gamble on you? "I had known Simon for years and been dating him for a while too, before we started recording together. As you said before I had had other recording deals so it wasn’t unusual to me. But I really wanted to record one of the songs that Simon had cut with another girl and signing with him meant ... I got it!"
"The track was 'CRUISIN' and I loved it! I had a dance routine that lasted for the entire 12’ version, hahahahahahaa!"
Then, amazingly, Cowell had to release your first single 'So Macho' three times before it finally broke into the Top 10 UK Singles Chart in 1986! Finally hitting the #2 position, it was basically your hit single that paved the way for Fanfare's continued future! Wow, at that time you must have been on top of the world, but was it still concerning that the song had to have three attempts to shine - and each time it was released, what was being done differently to promote it? "Again, it was not an issue to me that it didn’t chart as I had never been in the top 40 before anyway. All we did diferently is send me on a PA tour and let me strutt myself! I think the performances brought the songs to life and then people connected to the lyrics more."
You then joined the writing/producing team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) and the single 'Toy Boy' was released, which went on to reach #4 in 1987. Mike Stock claims that his inspiration for writing the song came from the fact that you were dating a younger man at the time. True or false?! "True that it was his inspiration, but actually the boy was not younger than me. He was just a lot younger than DAVID ESSEX who I had been dating before!!"
'Toy Boy' has since seen it's 23rd anniversary, and was the 26th best-selling single in 1987 in the UK. All these years later, is it a song you can still easily sing live at your shows (given the lyrics), or has it taken on a cheesy, sarcastic nudge nudge wink wink aspect to it now? "I still love to get crazy to 'ToyBoy'! It was always nudge nudge wink wink as I actually liked OLDER guys in real life. But now I can see COUGARS everywhere making it their anthem!"
You went on to have another five hit singles with SAW, but soon after you moved away from them, and come the arrival of the '90s (and a change of musical direction), the bright hot spotlight of fame had diminished. So, after all that '80s/early '90s pop fame whirlwind had indeed wound down, it seems to me (from press now that relates to it back then) that you were kinda relieved - was that the case at the time? "I released songs in other countries! 14 in all. And albums. It wasn’t a relief to stop it was a case of wanting to change direction and the label not wanting to."
"So we had to just sit the term out. I actually think it was a shame as I had a lot more to give and a lot of talent and energy that didn’t get used - but I'm making up for it now!"
In 2006, almost 11 years following your last official album, you relaunched and re-established your pop career. Indeed, just last year you released the first official UK Greatest Hits album, 'Right Back Where We Started - The Hits Plus Collection. Now THIS is one hell of an album, for sure! A comprehensive anthology of your recording career from 1986 onwards, every hit single is included along with new recordings and rare never-before-released mixes and songs! How much fun did you have putting this together and please tell us more about the new recordings? "It's been a fun time also pulling out all the DVDs for the latest release, 'SINITTA - THE GREATEST HITS PLUS DVDs'! It's so funny seeing how young the dancers and I were and remembering those days. It was a blast!"
And with regard the rare never-before-released mixes and songs, where have they been hiding all these years - and were you surprised at how many there actually were when it came to compiling this wonderful double CD album? "Not really, because you record things that never see the light of day. But some are just demos ... so, hilarious!"
OK, here's a fun one, looking at the cover artwork for these three (3) singles, please describe what was going through your mind at that time - 'Toy Boy,' 'Cross My Broken Heart,' and 'Right Back Where We Started From'!
'Toy Boy' - "Hahaha - it was actually a 'SO MACHO' photo picture! And the big white jacket was meant to be me showing how MACHO I was!!"
'Cross My Broken Heart' "I was trying trying to look “fierce,” as Arlene used to call it! Today we call it attitude. I was doing hurt, but pissed off too!"
'Right Back Where We Started From' "I thought I was grown up and sexy. Like a baby panther. I had a new boyfriend too watching the shoot behind the cameraman - so I was flirting with him!"
Your website states that you are working on a couple of secret projects for 2010 (a new, original material album, perhaps) - can you at least give us a hint about what we can expect further from you? "No, but when the time is right I promise to contact you with the news. I'm very excited about it all!"
You've done a lot of TV and stage work down the years - Cats, The X Factor, Hair, Grease Is The Word - but your recent turn on Dancing on Ice (2010) resulted in you and your partner, series regular professional Andre Lipanov becoming the first couple to be eliminated in week 1 of the competition. So, what went wrong, and would you tackle something like that again? "We took on a challenge we didn't want to and failed, but at least we didn't play it safe! Of course! I'm a tryer. I enjoy learning new things and had a lot of fun!"
Have you ever joined any of these ongoing '80s revival tours? Something like the Rewind tour, the Regeneration tour, the Here & Now tour, etc? And, do you think you'll ever come over and play any US gigs, perhaps? "Why not?! Could be fun!"
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Sinitta to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "I can't remember, but it was as a dancer, not a singer."
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why?! "'I Don't Believe In Miracles,' because I do!"
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "Happily!"
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "Nuts!"
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "Grace Kelly, Princess Diana - it would be a secret!"
I also hear on the grapevine that you are expecting a baby sometime this year with your partner, Stefano Zagni. CONGRATULATIONS! Now, as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, have you names already picked out for your child, and if so, well, what would they be?! "Simon or Simone! Hahahahaha!"
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "'Toyboy'!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) ... do you? "I loved the movie, 'Happy Feet'!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
If you’re interested in knowing more about Sinitta, visit her website: